A Raven Falls


A Raven Falls

The Ravens name can be found in many Irish place-names, such as Ardnaveagh in County Limerick and Carrig na Fiach in County Kerry.

Thursday, 11 April 2013
9:00 AM GMT

All that day the Raven and his mate had been busy, bringing twigs to their ramshackle nest near the Old Viaduct, but they still found time for their courtship aerobatics. They carried out mock attacks on each other, swooping and diving in a spectacular display of aerobatics, the male flying upside down to impress the female, their harsh calls of pruk, pruk rang throughout the valley, other nesting birds heard their calls and stayed safe in their nests.

The Ravens had been together for ten years, the valley was theirs, no other Raven would dare intrude on their territory, year after year they built their nest in the same Fir tree near one of the pillars of the Viaduct. The nest was made from a foundation of interwoven sticks, lined with hair and wisps of sheep’s wool, there they would lay their pale-green eggs, the little nestlings would be fed by both parents, after six weeks they would be encouraged to leave the nest and the valley.

In the meantime the Ravens were blissfully happy, patrolling their territory with military-like precision every day, occasionally they would land on the ground in a secluded spot, there the male would show submission to the female with bowing and neck-stretching. But all this was to end, this was the day that the hunter decided that he was going to kill one of what he called the crows that nested near the Viaduct, he was patient, he bided his time, crouched behind a fallen log, he awaited his chance.

It came in the early afternoon, the Ravens left their nest where soon they would lay their eggs, blissful in each others company, and caution was thrown to the wind as they landed in an open space. The hunter stayed stock-still, the least movement would disturb the Ravens, he lined up the deadly point 22, his cheek firmly against the stock of the gun, now one of the birds was square in his sights, he squeezed the trigger, the sharp report of the shot echoed up and down the valley, but the female Raven lay dead on the ground.

The shot set off an alarm in the valley, birds were flying everywhere in a panic, the male Raven joined them, seeking a place of refuge and safety, not yet realising that his partner was dead. Then an eerie silence descended on the valley, no wild creature stirred, no bird flew. The hunter went to inspect his prey, a crumpled heap on the ground, red blood staining its breast; already the colour seemed to be fading from its once glossy plumage, he picked it up by one limp wing, noting its massive bill and wedge-shaped tail, a very big crow, he thought.

That night, in the pub he bragged about the big crow he had shot, he did not hear the plaintive cry of the male Raven as he ranged the valley, mourning his dead mate, that year there would be no eggs in the nest in the Fir tree, there would be no young Ravens being taught how to hunt by their parents, there would only be the call of the Raven, who to this day mourns his partner. It is believed that a Raven can live for up to 60 years, they are large, intelligent birds and no one could mistake them for a crow.

Their name in Irish is Fach Dubh and they mainly inhabit moorland and mountainous country, they are early nesters, their first brood emerging in the month of March. In defence of its nest, the Raven knows no fear, Horace Saunders in his book, An Illustrated Manual of British Birds, published in 1899, writes of seeing one attacking an Eagle. Saunders also writes of the hatred of the bird by sheep-farmers and the ease with which it was trapped and poisoned, a bounty was once paid for a dead Raven, leading to a huge decrease in its numbers.

In the Bible, after the flood, the Raven was the first bird that Noah sent out from the Arc, and Isaiah described the state of desolation that would descend on Idumea, declaring that only the Owl and the Raven would dwell in it. Ravens have for long had an association with prophecy and with bad luck, in Macbeth, Shakespeare says; The Raven himself is hoarse, that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements.

The Ravens name can be found in many Irish place-names, such as Ardnaveagh in County Limerick and Carrig na Fiach in County Kerry. In his famous poem, The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe maintains the belief that the Raven is a bird of ill-omen with the following lines.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou art no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the shore,
Tell me what thy name is on the night’s plutonian shore,
Quote the Raven, Nevermore.

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